Finding Your Parenting Style
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Parenting styles are very personal—what works for you may not be your neighbor's cup of tea. Some mothers think it's important to include their children in most aspects of their adult lives. They bring the children to adult gatherings, to restaurants, and so forth. This style has some very positive points. The child learns how to relate to adults, and the adults get to enjoy the best of both worlds: an active social life that doesn't require them to spend time away from their children.
Other parents may choose to reserve some of their social time for themselves, without children around. This, too, is a valid option. It has the benefit of allowing parents some private time to recharge their batteries after a hectic week of child-centered living, and gives them a chance to reconnect in their relationship.
Whichever style suits you, it's important to give your child the sense that she is valued by adults, and not someone who can simply be banished from the main action. So even if you choose to reserve some of your social life as for adults only, it's a good idea to include your children periodically in some of your gatherings. That way they'll learn how to interact with grown-ups, and will feel more plugged into your life. In addition, they'll learn an important lesson in diversity.
To develop adequate social skills, your child really needs to participate in the give-and-take of relationships with children her own age. If you live in an area where few children live nearby, make an effort to hook up with a play group, or take regular trips to a local park where she'll have a chance to interact with other kids.
It Takes a Village…
The absence of a standard set of child-raising rules for all of us to consult is only one of the reasons that bringing up children today seems more difficult than it was for our parents' generation. Another, and equally problematic, trend has been the break-up of the extended family. The little nuclear group of Mom, Dad, and the children often lives far from the aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas who once were part of the neighborhood.
It's not hard to find playmates for your school-age child, but it is often difficult to expose her to a diverse range of people—diverse in age, interests, backgrounds, and styles. This exposure can be crucial: Children who learn to appreciate what is good in different types of people learn also to appreciate what's unique in themselves.
Defining Your Parenting Goals
You need to develop your own parenting style, one that suits your personality, interests, and values. But it's equally important that you develop a firm understanding of your parenting goals. Earlier generations of parents focused on obedience, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. A good child was a quiet, well-behaved one.
Today, we generally set our goals a little higher. Sure, none of us want our children to terrorize everyone and run wild. But we don't want their good behavior to come at the expense of their creativity and enthusiasm. We believe that childhood is a time for a child to be a child—that it's unnatural to try to make them conform completely to adult standards of behavior.
If children are valued they will learn to value others. Set limits, stick to them, but make all decisions with love.
Combining these two desires—for reasonably well-behaved children who also feel free to express their individuality—can be difficult. And it sometimes requires effort on your part to pull it off. For example, you need to recognize that certain places are not necessarily appropriate for children. Children do, after all, get bored—and when they're bored they're likely to act up and make noise. This is understandably unwelcome at the opera, or in a romantic restaurant. On the other hand, the only way children can learn to interact with the world outside the family is through immersion in it. They should be welcome in such reasonable venues as family restaurants, grocery stores, and similar places.
More on: Mom's Life
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.